Photo expedition with ethnographer to Kuba kingdom, Mukanda rite of passage in Pende tribe and Voodoo wrestlers

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO




July 12 – 26, 2024
Democratic Republic of the Congo

expedition to DRC Congo touir to Kuba kingrom Mukanda ceremony Pende tribe Yaka tribe expedition to Congo Central Central Africa Voodoo wrestlers Kinshasa Sapeurs Congo

tour to Congo, tours to Africa, trekking gorillas
Congo — the land embraced with myths and legends, seducing with its remoteness and wilderness, the home for the most exotic African cultures lost in the boundless jungles of Great river.
Our ethnographic and photo expedition heads to the central most part of Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to explore Kuba Kingdom and witness their impressive ritual dances, attend Mukanda initiation ceremony among Pende boys, watch the rites of Yaka tribe, get into close acquaintance with the cult of "tropical franciscaners", fetish of witch doctors, and communicate with Voodoo wrestlers and smashing Congolese Sapeurs.

The mysterious Timbuktu and the famous clay mosque in Djenne, the majestic Niger River and the Dogon Country that has preserved its culture through the centuries, the sands of the mighty Sahara Desert, animistic rituals and ceremonies.
On this expedition we will meet representatives of the Bambara, Bobo, Bozo, Fulani, Tuareg, Songhai tribes and witness the famous Dogon dances.

SCHEDULE AND COST:


Dates: July 12 — 26, 2024

Duration: 15 days / 14 nights

Number of participants: 8 – 12


Cost per person:
• 6 290 USD subject to 11 – 12 participants,
• 6 450 USD subject to 10 participants,
• 6 790 USD subject to 8 – 9 participants.

10% early booking discount (in case you book before February 12, 2024)

Everything is included (also domestic flight, single acco and full board) except for:

- international flight to Kinshasa roundtrip,

- international medical insurance,

- DR Congo visa (about USD 150, cost may change), to be arranged on your own in DR Congo embassy in advance, meanwhile we provide invitation letter from DRC.

Estimated cost of flight Moscow – Kinshasa – Moscow: USD 1000 – 1600 (Usually bought on your own, we consult you).

Estimated cost of flight Istanbul – Kinshasa – Istanbul: USD 800 – 1000 (Usually bought on your own, we consult you).

Estimated cost of flight Cairo – Kinshasa – Cairo: USD 500 – 600 (Usually bought on your own, we consult you).

Single supplement: provided by default (single supplement can be provided not along the whole itinerary)





TRAVEL PROGRAM: TOUR TO DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO


Day 1. July 12, 2024 (Wednesday). Arrival in Kinshasa

Arrival and pick-up at Kinshasa (N'djili International Airport). Transfer to Ixoras Hotel or similar.

Accommodation included: Ixoras Hotel or similar.

Meals included: no


* Recommended flights:

— from Moscow with Egypt Air via Cairo, departure from Moscow at 16:55 on July 11, stopover in Cairo 20 hours 45 minutes (free visa and free hotel and transfer in Cairo provided by the airlines), departure from Cairo at 18:05 on July 12, arrival in Kinshasa at 22:55 on July 12, or

— from Moscow with Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, departure from Moscow at 22:00 on July 11, stopover in Addis Ababa 4 hours 00 minutes, departure from Addis Ababa at 10:00 am on July 12, arrival in Kinshasa at 12:10 pm on July 12, or

— from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines direct flight, departure from Istanbul at 16:50 on July 12, arrival in Kinshasa at 22:05 on July 12, or

— any flight with arrival in Kinshasa any time on July 12 or in the night from July 12 to 13.



Day 2. July 13, 2024 (Thursday). Kinshasa Fetish cult and Voodoo wrestlers

The fetish wrestlers get their power from witch doctors that live secretly in popular quarter of Kinshasa in their houses called temples.

Between 6.00 am and 12.00 pm (before traffic jams start), we're visiting two witch doctors' temples:

Lisaponge Temple (located in Delvaux, Ngaliema) and Malema Temple (in Matete).

We'll meet some wrestlers at temples before the fights. Attending the fight offer opportunity of wide range of photographs. From the temple to the fight field there are a lot of photo opportunities. With the jam in Kinshasa, this may take time to drive from a place to another.

1.00 pm be back in the city of Kinshasa and have Lunch.

02.00 pm depart for the fetish wrestler's caravan after seeing how they prepare for fight.

4.00 pm Attend the Fetish Wrestlers fights.

You may have heard of "voodoo wrestling" or catch fetish as it's known in The Congo. This interesting mixture of traditional voodoo and pro wrestling that's popular in The Congo has received some media coverage in the last few years. The activity starts late in the evening, but we need to be with them before that to photograph their colorful parades.

The minimum number of fights is 6 (12 wrestlers involved). So, we'll go and witness how some prepare for the event and follow the caravan.

Overnight at Ixoras Hotel or similar.


Accommodation included: Ixoras Hotel or similar

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 3. July 14, 2024 (Friday). Kinshasa – Kisantu: Tata Gonga sect – Kinshasa Garbage artists (120 km, 2.5 hrs drive)

Very early in the morning (05.00 am before the Kinshasa terrific Jam) we will travel to Kisantu, nearly two hours out of Kinshasa, to visit the sect of the prophet Tata Gonda. New cults and sects, mixture of African religion and Christianity: Tata Gonda In the depths of the Central Congo province, the followers of the now dead prophet Tata Gonda live in total autarchy.

Today, several hundred voluntary followers from Congo and Angola continue to follow the spiritual path of their "guru". Their purpose is to combat an unjust and sinful world through continuous prayer and an austere, monastic life. We will visit their headquarters, far away from prying eyes, if we are allowed to do so. In total privacy, this community lives self-sufficiently according to their beliefs. They do community work, have vegetable gardens, a river with drinking water, a fish farm, prayer facilities, dormitories, and everything else these "tropical Franciscans" could need.

Around 11.00 pm drive back to Kinshasa

Because of traffic, arrival in Kinshasa is expected around 3pm.

OPTIONALLY we can meet so called "Garbage artists" of THE KIN ACT (as "Kinshasa Actors" or "Kinshasa Action"). These artists are famous from their costumes made from garbage. The KIN ACT is an organization led by artists and cultural operators that transforms trashes into art to call for the community to responsibly manage the environment by showing out the risks of not properly taking care of trashes. The project is also supported from Europe.

We can have a walk demonstration in the street with a series of photographs with 5 or more different costumes or even share a hot evening of live music in their workshop.

Around 08.00 pm drive back to the hotel for dinner.

Overnight at Ixoras Hotel or similar.


Accommodation included: Ixoras Hotel or similar

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Day 4. July 15, 2024 (Saturday). Kinshasa – Kenge: Yaka tribe (300 km, 6 hrs drive)

Departing time 09.00 after breakfast.

We drive from Kinshasa to Kenge, nearly 300 Kms for about 6 hours. We drop-off our luggage and hotel and walk for an hour to the sacred village, 5kms out of Kenge, where the Yaka settled after breaking away from the Luba empire 200 years ago. We meet the King to get briefed about the next day activities.

Return to the Hotel.


Accommodation included: Wata Fils Hotel or similar

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Day 5. July 16, 2024 (Sunday). Yaka Kingdom Traditional ceremony (257 km, 6 hrs drive)

This morning after an early breakfast, we leave at 7.00 am and depart for the Yaka tribe's village. For better photography experience, it is advised to leave early in the morning time, 06.30 am. The Royal Family will welcome us with a big traditional masked dance, blood sacrifice ritual, and learn about the local monarchies in today's republic. We will taste some local specialties.

10.00 am end of ceremony and 6 hours drive to Kikwit (257 km).

Overnight in Grand Hotel de Kikwit or similar.


Accommodation included: Grand Hotel de Kikwit or similar

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinne




Days 6 – 7. July 17 – 18, 2024 (Monday – Tuesday). Kikwit – Gungu: Pende Traditional ceremonies (150 km, 4.5 hrs drive)

Today we depart early in the morning, at 06.00 am and around 10.30 am at the latest arrive in Gungu, the capital of Pende Kingdom, one of the most interesting and visually impressive tribes of all Africa.

We are meeting with the traditional chief Kibala to get set up on activities that will be organized from today night to tomorrow.

Here during 3 days we will be witnessing the number of mask dances, rituals and ceremonies, including annual rite of passage for Pende young boys, called Mukanda — the most important event among Pende.

We can also see the parts from the following activities: Mungonge (rite of passage from adult to elders – man with pierced cheeks), Tshiwila of Night (Rite of passage for young girls), Tshiwila of day (women dance), Mbambamba, Minganji and Mbuya ceremonies and Pende men on the stilts.


Accommodation included: camping in the Chief's yard.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner.


Day 8. July 19, 2024 (Wednesday). Portrait session in Pende – Tshikapa (251 km, 6 hrs drive)

Today morning, the traditional artists will dress in their ancestral attire for portraits photographers. Travelers have this up to 12.00 pm.

At midday or so, 6 hours driving from Gungu to Tshikapa (251 km).

Arrive and check-in at Tchamuntu Hotel. We rest to get ready for tomorrow early presentation of our civilities to local authorities.

Possible tribes to glance between Gungu and Tshikapa are Leele and Wongo.

The 20,000 to 30,000 Lele people occupy the western region of the Kuba kingdom. The men work in the forest, where they hunt in groups, locate medicinal plants, cut wood, sculpt, and communicate with the spirits. The women oversee the food crops and of fishing in the marshes; feeding the village is their responsibility. Lele carvers produce statuettes and face masks. The masks often have slit eyes. The functions of the masks are little known. Lele masks appeared in dances accompanying the burial rites of chiefs and in annual foundation/creation ceremonies. Although the art of the Lele borrows many elements from the Kuba and Dengese in particular, the hairdo and long braids of the statuettes distinguish them from any others. The Lele also use different prestige objects. The figures on these objects occasionally have a coiffure with two long plaits down the back.

The Wongo people live in the Kasai district of Democratic Republic of Congo. The Wongo people migrated from northern African and are now living scattered about in villages. They are said to share some of the same cultural features of the Kuba, yet are not formally members of this tribe. According to legend, the ancestors of the Wongo – the Woto, had three sons – Lele, Kuba, and Wongo, which make up their neighboring tribes. These tribes traveled from Tumba Lake into the current province they live in. Wongo have a strong artistic tradition.


Accommodation included: Tchamuntu Hotel, very basic conditions.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 9. July 20, 2024 (Thursday). Tshikapa – Mweka (280 km, 12 hours drive)

Today morning, we present our civilities to local authorities, and sometimes this may take us up to mid-day.

Then very long drive to Mweka. If departure is 10.00 am, expected arrival is at 10pm. It's nearly 280 km but of a very dilapidated road. It will take up to 12 hours.

Mweka is a full challenging day drive on our way to the capital of Kuba Kingdom.

It's planned to camp, on the single basis or sleeping in a catholic mission.


Accommodation included: catholic missions, very basic conditions, or camp, on the single basis.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Days 10 – 11. July 21 – 22, 2024 (Friday – Saturday). Mweka – Mushenge, Kuba Kingdom capital (70 km, 4 hours drive)

Today, after administrative civility, we'll be on road for nearly 4 hours for a such short distance.

During 2 days in Kuba Kingdom, reigned by the Prince Kwete, we will get into acquaintance with beliefs of these people. Their religion is linked to the nature spirits and spirit of passed away rulers. We will witness their rituals, explore their buildings and special places elaborately decorated, will see initiation rites' masks and carved wooden figurines, initiation masks, cups, and beautifully embroidered hand-woven raffia cloth (we experience how they sew them), and attend a ritual and/or initiation demonstration using their famous mask and clothes.

It is a real paradise for those who collect the masks. Kuba masks are world's most impressive and among the most elaborative.

In Kuba Kingdom we will be accommodated in tents, on the single basis.


Accommodation included: camp on the single basis

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Days 12 – 13. July 23 – 24, 2024 (Sunday – Monday). Kuba Kingdom – Kananga (300 kms, 18 – 20 hrs drive within 2 days)

Farewell with Kuba Kingdom and last shopping. During these 2 days we are on the way from Kuba Kingdom to Kananga (300 km to be covered for 2 days) by sleeping midway in Benaleka at Saint Joseph Catholic Mission.

On our way, it's possible to have experience with Bena Nsapo people who inhabit the region. The Bena Nsapo, transformed by the Belgians into Nsapo-Nsapo, are one of the major components of the Songye ethnic group, who lived for a long time in Luluabourg (today Kananga).

Coming from the Ben'Eki, that is to say followers of the "Bukishi", they are the guarantors of Songye spiritual power and remain fundamentally spiritual. The initiation to "Bukishi" is done in a collective way, and the one who is not initiated is called "kapungulu". Wherever they found themselves, they continued to practice cultural and magical rituals specific to the Basongye or Bayembi (name from the Luba empire), which are among the most feared and mysterious in the DRCongo.In Kananga we will probably stay overnight at MED1 HOTEL or similar.

Accommodation included: Saint Joseph Catholic Mission in Benaleka MED1 in Kananga or similar,

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner




Day 14. July 25, 2024 (Tuesday). Kananga – Flight to Kinshasa: Congolese Sapeurs

Today we take domestic flight from Kananga to Kinshasa. Arrive around 11.00 am and transfer to Ixoras Hotel or similar.

In the afternoon, meet with Congolese Sapeurs and set up photo session with them. SAPE (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes) means "society of advanced and elegant people" and "sapeurs" do their best in order to prove that it's true. These representatives of unique subculture appear in the slams of Kinshasa and in fact they are not rich.

We end up buying some souvenir masks in one of the biggest Congo markets of ancestral and traditional masks and art.


Accommodation included: Ixoras Hotel or similar

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner



Day 15. July 26, 2024 (Wednesday). Kinshasa – Return flight

After breakfast, transfer to the airport. Return flight from Kinshasa back home or another destination.


Accommodation included: no

Meals included: breakfast


*Recommended flight:

— to Moscow with Egypt Air via Cairo, departure from Kinshasa at 23:55 on July 26, stopover in Cairo 2 hours 45 minutes, departure from Cairo at 9:25 am on July 27, arrival in Kinshasa at 15:55 on July 27, or

— to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines direct flight, departure from Kinshasa at 23:35 on July 26, arrival in Kinshasa at 9:15 am on July 27, or

— any flight with departure from Kinshasa any time on July 26.


* The order of visits and excursions can be modified according to local conditions, i.e. state of roads, security situation in tribes etc. If some visits and/or tours could not be done due to external conditions, they will be replaced when possible.

** The participant of expedition to Democratic Republic of the Congo must be motivated to be respectful to the culture of local tribes and cultures, be aware of the objectives of the trip and possible program changes depending on weather conditions, security conditions and any other reasons, be in a good shape and morally stable, as well as be able to adapt to the new environment and culture.


Cost includes:

• Domestic flight Kananga — Kinshasa
• accommodation in hotels and guest houses based on single rooms (DBL for family couples)
• accommodation in tents in camping based on single
• accommodation in Catholic missionaries
• camping equipment: tents, mattresses, dishware, cutlery
• full board meals (3 times a day) along the route
• drinking mineral water along the route
• transport: 4x4 jeep vehicles like Toyota Land Cruiser or similar (3 participants in each car maximum, incl. 2 pax on rear seat and 1 pax in front), with AC and experienced drivers,
• all airport transfers
• all permits
• DRC visa facilitation (invitation letter and immigration paper that accompanies invitation letter)
• all activities (dances, rituals, ceremonies), visits and entrance fees along the route
• financial support of local communities/tribes
• photo- and video shooting allowance
• experienced English speaking professional guide along the whole route and local guides
• Russian-speaking and English-speaking team leader Mzungu

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid):

• international flight to Kinshasa roundtrip and related taxes (airport departure tax)
• international medical insurance
• visa of DR Congo (to be obtained in advance in the DRC embassy in your country, on your own, at some 150 USD, cost may change. We provide for Invitation letter and immigration paper that accompanies invitation letter)
• alcohol, soft drinks and personal expenses
• tips







To take with:

- sets of clothes suitable for the weather conditions, including lightweight clothes (shorts, T-shorts), and one set of warm clothes (hoody or light jacket), long sleeve clothes
- sun hat/panama
- swimwear
- raincoat
- comfortable trekking footwear, light footwear (sneakers)
- sleeping bag for warm weather
- mosquito net for sleeping place (is a must!)
- personal hygiene items (towel, wet tissues, soap)
- individual medical kit (analgesics, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydration, court plaster, your personal medications)
- anti malaria prevention pills (up to you to decide but recommended)
- yellow fever certificate (is a must!)
- COVID vaccination certificate on full vaccination or certificate with negative result of PCR coronavirus test (to be verified before the trip)
- sunblock set (cream, spray)
- various repellents (is a must!)
- sunglasses
- big backpack or travel bag for stuff (up to 70 l)
- small backpack for radial walks (25 – 30 l)
- head torch
- favorite meals (chocolate, nuts)
- photo and video camera, tripod
- power bank, batteries

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